MID-ULSTER MLA’s have spoken out in opposition of a £5,000 pay rise set to be added to their salaries from next year.
An independent panel has decided that members will receive an 11 per cent increase on basic pay from April 2013 pushing an individual MLA’s salary up to £48,000 per year. Currently assembly members earn £43,101 as a basic rate of pay.
The announcement comes just days after it was revealed that Mid-Ulster MLA’s claimed over £330,000 in expenses from April to December last year.
However, is to be funded by a cut in The rise is to be funded by a cut in office cost expenses currently claimed by politicians.
“At a time when the public sector is under pressure, and people are losing their jobs, the headline recommendation of an 11% increase in MLA basic pay is contrary to the message we are hearing in all other areas of public spending,” said the SDLP’s Patsy McGlone.
“The SDLP do not support the increase in basic pay for Assembly members.”
Mr McGlone also hit out at plans to finance the £5k salary rise in the form of a cut in office cost expenses claimed by MLA’s.
He said: “We are currently dealing with a difficult welfare reform bill, that will affect many people right across the North, and the recommendation for a reduction of the Office Cost Allowance is also a worry, as the OCA allows me to run important Constituency and Advice offices in Cookstown and Maghera that benefit the people of Mid Ulster.”
Mid-Ulster DUP MLA Ian McCrea said the move was “unacceptable” because it was being funded at the expense of constituents
“MLAs should have no role in the setting of their terms and conditions,” said the MLA.
“We are still considering the Report however, the proposition that MLAs should have a salary increase funded at the expense of their constituency service is totally unacceptable.
“The DUP provides the largest number of advice centres and we want to maintain this vital frontline service.”
“DUP members’ priority will be to maintain their constituency service rather than benefiting themselves.”
UUP assembly representative for Mid-Ulster Sandra Overend has also rejected the plans,
Mrs Overend said her party is set to examine the Independent Financial Review Panel’s report further.
She said: “Both I and my Party will have to examine the proposals in detail, but my initial thoughts were that such an increase is not acceptable given the prevailing economic circumstances and the hardships which are being faced by so many families and households.”
“I know full well the impact which job losses and public sector pay freezes are having, and I know the pressures which small businesses are facing in Mid-Ulster.”
The UUP MLA also rejected plans to slash office costs to fund the salary rise.
“I am also opposed to the fact that the increase is to be funded via a cut in office costs allowances,” she said.
“OCA is used to provide and run an MLAs constituency service, and both I, and the Ulster Unionist Party, believe that this is an essential front line service.
“Stormont did indeed set up the Independent panel, and that is the key point, it is an independent panel, who were making the decision outside of the MLAs. The fact that I and many other MLAs do not agree with the findings is neither here nor there”.
Sinn Fein’s Michelle O’Neill, Francie Molloy and Martin McGuinness are also sticking to party lines in rejecting the plans.
The pay issue has been so controversial the assembly agreed an independent panel should decide wages which has led to the report produced by the Independent Financial Review Panel.
In recent years, assembly members’ salaries have not risen in line with those paid in the Scottish parliament and Welsh assembly.
Its key decision was that basic pay should rise to £48,000.
To mitigate the cost to the public purse, the panel said that office cost expenses which are higher than Scotland, should be cut by 3% per year by 2014.
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